Circulation in the Elderly & Cold Weather
Circulation: movement to and fro or around something, especially that of fluid in a closed system. Our circulatory system, or the cardiovascular system, permits blood to circulate throughout the body. It also transports nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, blood cells and hormones to and from the cells of our body to provide nourishment.
As we age, the circulatory system can become less effective. This is due to a variety of factors:
Lifestyle Habits: things like smoking, lack of exercise and a poor diet can cause the circulatory system to perform badly.
Diabetes: This is a common cause of poor circulation as diabetes causes blood vessels to narrow and harden.
Heart Disease: Over time, your heart can develop fat deposits, a thickening of the walls, stiffened valves and abnormal rhythms which are caused by heart disease.
Changes in Blood Pressure: Our blood pressure is kept in check by receptors that become less sensitive over time. This makes it more challenging for our body to regulate blood flow.
Blood Thinning: As we age, we carry less water. This in turn means the volume of blood in our body is reduced and red blood cells are replaced at a slower rate.
Family History: Some things we wish we didn't inherit from our families. If previous generations have suffered from poor circulation, chances are you will, too. It's a risk factor we cannot control, but can impact by making good lifestyle choices.
Does Winter Weather Affect Circulation?
Low temperatures cause our blood vessels and arteries to narrow. Your body restricts blood flow near the surface of your body to help protect and maintain blood flow to the vital organs. This is why your cheeks might flush in cold weather and your hands and feet go numb.
This narrowing of your blood vessels in turn restricts blood flow and reduces the oxygen reaching your heart. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through vessels that are constricted. Because of this, your blood pressure and heart rate can increase.
For elderly persons who already experience heart conditions or other maladies, this can be very concerning. Physically demanding outdoor activities can cause chest pain, a heart attack or a stroke. Activities like shoveling snow should be avoided by elderly people who have any kind of heart disease, blood pressure condition or diabetes. They should avoid any outdoor physical exertion, especially in cold temperatures.
How to Stay Safe in Cold Weather
If you have a heart condition or any of the other conditions listed above, you will want to stay in close contact with your doctor about best practices for your individual case.
Staying warm and indoors as much as possible during cold weather will help keep circulation at maximum efficiency. If you are outdoors, take things slow. Dress warmly and minimize the length of time you are exposed to cold temperatures. It's also important to stay warm while inside. Hypothermia can happen at lower temperatures than you might think.
Rely on neighbors or family members to help with any outdoor chores that may stress your heart and affect your circulation. It's better to err on the side of caution and accept help from others so you can keep yourself as healthy and safe as possible.
The Villas Senior Care Community
The Villas Senior Care Community, located in Sherman, provides a variety of senior living options. Visit our website today to learn about independent living, an assisted lifestyle community, short-term therapy services and skilled nursing care. Our dedicated team of nurses and caregivers can answer your questions about senior care and what living option is right for you or your loved one.